Streets Crowded on 1st Weekend of 2nd State of Emergency in Tokyo Metro Area

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People walk across the famed intersection in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo at 11:35 a.m. Saturday, the beginning of the first weekend after the declaration of another state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.

A large number of people were seen Saturday on the streets of shopping and entertainment districts in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, despite the day marking the start of the first weekend since a state of emergency was declared for a second time.

During the previous state of emergency in April, fewer people were seen in such districts because many commercial facilities, such as department stores and retailers, closed just after the declaration. This time, infections with the novel coronavirus have been spreading in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but such facilities were not requested to close.

■ Few shops closed

The Shibuya district of Tokyo is visited by many young people from other areas of the capital and other prefectures in the metropolitan area. Shortly after noon, a large number of people were seen walking across the intersection in front of Shibuya Station, being careful to avoid each other.

The scene was in contrast with that on April 11 last year, which was the first Saturday after the declaration of the previous state of emergency. In the same noon time frame during the first emergency, the intersection was nearly devoid of people.

“During the previous state of emergency, only a few people walked across,” said Munehisa Iitaka, manager of the Udagawa branch of the Sanzenri Yakuhin drug store chain near the intersection. “This time, I feel that people in a wide range of generations, from young to old, are out on the streets.”

Many eating and drinking establishments and clothing shops line Shibuya Center-gai street. In April last year, many of the businesses temporarily closed because administrative authorities requested a wide range of businesses to do so.

But on Saturday, most of the businesses were open. One of them, a gyudon beef on rice restaurant, was fully seated at lunchtime. In front of a ramen restaurant, five or six young people were waiting in line.

This time, the Tokyo metropolitan government has requested people to refrain from going out for purposes which are not urgent or unnecessary. The metropolitan government asks people to go out only for essential purposes, such as visiting hospitals, shopping for daily necessities and other tasks for maintaining daily living and health.

On the other hand, the metropolitan government does not demand overall closures of business operations, which was issued at the time of the previous state of emergency. The metropolitan government only asks that eating and drinking establishments close by 8 p.m. every day.

The Shibuya 109 shopping complex, which temporarily closed during the previous state of emergency, opened until 8 p.m. on Saturday. An 18-year-old female high school student from Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, who was meeting up with her friend beside the building, said: “Isn’t it all right to walk around outdoors until 8 p.m.? After shopping, I want to have a meal before going home.”

■ Accustomed to pandemic

In the Togoshi-Ginza Shopping Street in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, a remarkable number of families wearing masks enjoyed walking and shopping around noon.

In April last year, shoppers aiming to stock up on supplies formed long lines in front of supermarkets and drug stores, leading to a shortage in toilet paper. On Saturday, such scenes were not to be seen.

Sumibi Hormoneyaki no Neverland, an izakaya pub in the shopping street, has closed at 8 p.m. since Friday. The izakaya had opened until midnight before that. Predicting the number of customers would decrease, the izakaya began selling vegetables from contracted farmers in front of the restaurant.

“I feel everybody has become relatively accustomed to the coronavirus crisis, for better or for worse,” said Yasuhiro Sawada, the president of the izakaya chain’s operating company. “I’ve carefully considered my business strategy under the coronavirus crisis, so I’m less pessimistic than the previous time.”

The Tokyo Disney Resorts temporarily closed during the previous state of emergency. On Saturday, its theme parks remained opened with earlier closing times.

At JR Maihama Station in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, a gateway to the theme parks, many families and students got off trains from around 8 a.m., one hour before opening time.

Yoshiharu Suzuki, a company employee who visited Disney with his wife and two daughters from Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, said they visited to make up for his elder daughter’s Coming-of-Age ceremony, which had been canceled.

“The whole family wants to give her a celebration,” he said. He had promised to have an alcoholic beverage with her daughter at a bar in the resort, but the bars are temporarily closed. “At least, I want to make it a fun day.”